Dual enrollment – the process high school students use to gain college credit through the Alabama Community College System – has been a launching pad for students like Grissom High School student Ashley Kimbel to start early in pursuing their dream careers.
Kimbel is a dually enrolled Calhoun Community College student who, at just 17, is nationally recognized for her design of a lighter-functioning prosthetic foot for Marine Corps veteran amputee Kendall Bane. She and Mr. Bane were featured on the TODAY Show last month, the first of many interviews Kimbel has had to discuss her passion for helping others and the benefit of high school career technical education (CTE) classes.
Kimbel, who plans to become a surgeon, is using her senior year at Huntsville’s Grissom High to not only study CTE engineering courses but to also dual enroll in Calhoun’s Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program. By doing so, Kimbel is able to take college-level EMT courses she can use to accelerate her college experience and expand her medical knowledge.
Gwen Baker, Calhoun’s Director of Dual Enrollment, said the EMT program enables students who pass the exam to become licensed EMTs.
Baker said many of the EMT dual enrollment students use their license to work as an EMT at area fire departments. Calhoun offers 89 dual enrollment classes across 23 high schools and on the college’s Decatur and Huntsville campuses.
A total of 1,225 high school students in Calhoun’s service area are taking 1,939 classes in local high schools, online or on Calhoun’s campuses this semester. Across Alabama, more than 15,000 high school students took academic and CTE dual enrollment courses last year that fall within the ACCS’ more than 200 degree and certification offerings.
Students who take dual enrollment through ACCS can potentially earn their associate degree and certain certifications and licenses before even graduating high school, and can use those credentials to begin their career or successfully transfer to a four-year college or university.
“Dual enrollment classes expose high school students to the rigor of college coursework while still in the familiar high school environment,” Baker said.
“CTE dual enrollment gives students opportunities for career exploration and a chance to enter a career pathway that leads directly to the workforce. It also introduces students and parents to the value of the two-year college system and the many opportunities available to students who have mastered workforce skills.”
Kimbel’s EMT instructor, Brittany Prater, added that the benefit of dual enrollment is the outstanding opportunity of learning about a career before actually working in the field.
“The ‘real world’ clinical experience gained by our students prior to graduating high school is a tremendous advantage, giving them a unique perspective and incredible foundation to build on in the future,” she said.
Kimbel, who plans to attend The University of Alabama at Birmingham after graduating high school this spring, said her greatest experience with Calhoun’s dual enrollment program is learning and developing the skills she will use in a future career.
“I decided to take dual enrollment courses because I know that I wanted to go into medicine, and the thing I can do in medicine at 18 is working as an EMT,” she said.
“Calhoun dual enrollment was my best option for pursuing an EMT license. By the end of this class I will be certified to work in the medical field and I will have more medical experience than most incoming medical students. …It has certainly helped me get closer to attaining my goals.”
Kimbel encouraged other students considering dual enrollment to “just go for it.”
“I know it can be daunting to take actual college courses while still being in high school, but it is so worth it,” she said.
“For me, deciding to enter the EMT program was a process of convincing myself that I had the time and somehow I could figure out all of the logistics and the paperwork that went along with it. I decided to … enroll and figure out the logistics when the time came, and that has been one of the best decisions I made my senior year.”
About Calhoun Community College
The largest of the two-year institutions comprising the Alabama Community College System, Calhoun Community College is an open-admission, community-based, state-supported, coeducational, comprehensive community college dedicated to providing affordable, high-quality and accessible education to individuals in its four-county service area. Offering 49 associate degree options and 52 career/certificate programs, Calhoun serves approximately 10,000 students at its 110-acre Decatur campus; its Huntsville/Cummings Research Park site; the Alabama Center for the Arts and at the Limestone Correctional Facility.
With 24 community colleges in more than 130 locations, the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) is Alabama’s gateway to first-class, affordable education and technical training to compete in a constantly evolving workforce. More than 168,000 Alabamians benefit from the various certification, credential, dual enrollment and degree programs ACCS offers alongside leading industry partners. The system includes the Alabama Technology Network, which provides extensive training and service offerings directly to business and industry. ACCS is governed by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees.